I love shopping at Goodwill. In fact, I really like hunting down treasures at thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales too. I find these unassuming second-hand stores are a great way to save a ton of money on high-quality items. Thrift store shopping takes some time, but you can find some unique, and functional items for your home.
I have a few go-to items I am always scouting out at thrift shops, and I thought I would share them with you. Here are the kitchen items you should be buying at thrift stores or other second-hand outlets for dirt cheap, rather than buying new.
Cast Iron Skillets
Cast iron skillets can last decades if properly cared for, but you will most likely find a gem in the rough at thrift shops. Surface rust appears when cast iron is neglected or moisture is left to sit on the skillet, this surface rust is usually referred to as “profile rust”. While profile rusting is not pretty it is also easily removed at home, in about one afternoon. More advanced or severe cases of rusting that cover the majority of the cookware will require sandblasting (I personally skip cast iron in a more advanced stages of rust).
Keep an eye out for manufacturers like Griswold, Wagner, or Lodge. Avoid any cracked skillets, or anything with dents, pitting, or pockmarks. Also, check for rocking when you set it on a flat surface if it is warped skip it.
Stainless Steel Bowls
Stainless steel bowls are incredibly useful and are always good buys. They are very easy to find in all sizes at most thrift stores. Expect to pay $1 to $2 or less each for these nearly indestructible bowls.
Mason or canning jars are a little harder to come by at thrift shops, my local V.O.A told me they don’t even accept them as donations (what?). I do run across them occasionally at Goodwill and ReStore as well as yard sales, estate sales, and auctions.
Avoid mayo jars or spaghetti sauce jars made to look like canning jars, you can’t actually reuse those for canning. Also, avoid any with small chips, cracks along the rim. A quick and easy test is to lightly run your finger over the edge of the jar to feel for chips or dings you might not be able to see.
I like to pay .25¢ per jar for genuine Ball brand jars, and will buy all they have at that price, I’m not even kidding.
Pots and Pans
Aside from cast iron, I have been able to find some good quality individual pieces of cookware at thrift stores.
Of all the cookware, I have come across I think the most overlooked are Revere Wear. I think people are on the hunt for All-Clad, Cuisinart, and Calphalon, and pass right by the Revere Ware.
Older Revere Ware made up to the late 70’s is solid cookware and usually has a lot of life left in it. Pots from that era should easily give you many more years of use. Check stamps on the bottom of the cookware, older stuff has a stamp that includes a circle and either the words “Process Patent” or “Pat. Pend.” with numbers. Newer Revere Ware has a much simpler logo that does not include a circle or any reference to a patent and is not of the same quality as the older stuff.
Avoid warped pots, but don’t necessarily shy away from stainless steel cookware with scorch stains, Bar Keepers Friend® will take care of a multitude of crimes committed against stainless steel and the copper cladding.
I don’t buy non-stick cookware, so I don’t have any suggestions for that.
Seasonal tablecloths, place mats, and kitchen towels make a quick run through the linen department at a thrift shop worthwhile. I know people who completely avoid second-hand soft goods for fear of bringing home critters. My rule is when I get home it goes directly in the wash, on hot setting, and I have never had a problem.
I usually shop in thrift stores for vintage linens. Vintage linens usually are made with superior fabrics (hello linen!), include handwork or embroidery, and pretty laces. I don’t wash these on hot, instead I hand wash and then hit them with a hot iron before I use them or store them away. Again, I have never had a problem with any sort of critter.
I do a quick sniff test of all vintage linens, and skip anything with particularly pungent odors, mild musty smells can be remedied but it most likely will take some effort. I just paid $3 for two beautiful linen table runners.
Old and new.
I have a soft spot for vintage Pyrex, the fun, colorful mixing bowls and bakeware are my favorite useful collectibles. Avoid any vintage Pyrex that is dull or has a haze, it has been run through a dishwasher, and the finish is permanently ruined. $10.00 is my top end for vintage Pyrex in good condition.
Pyrex is still around today making glass kitchen goods. Pie dishes, baking pans and bread pans are all staples at thrift shops. I grab these when they are 50% off. I usually pay .50¢ for pie pans, $1.00 or less for bread pans, and 2-$3 for large lasagna sized bake pans.
Things you should generally avoid at thrift shops
Plastic can absorb strange smells, and who knows what else, it can also leach absorbed stuff back out. Yuck!
Every coffeemaker, blender, microwave oven, and toaster I have ever seen in a thrift store looked well past it’s prime.
Ok, ok… after some gentle prodding from you guys I decided to take a closer look at the small appliances today while I was at the ReStore, and I almost bought a bread maker. It was a beast of a bread maker, a BreadMan Pro that was the size of a microwave oven. It was in very clean and in good condition, and looked like it had all it’s parts. Had it not been the size of a Mini Cooper I would of brought it home. I won’t be skipping over the small appliances any longer 🙂
Thrift shopping is not really like regular shopping, it takes a little patience, and you have to be willing to dig through a lot of junk, but I have found it is well worth the time invested when you bring home an awesome item for a song.
What do you think are the best and worst thrift store finds? Have you ever made an epic score at a thrift shop?